By Jason Massad
After 12 years as a Georgia House representative, Fran Millar doesn’t see the need to mince words much anymore.
Take the DeKalb County school system, for example, which Millar keeps a close watch on as vice chairman of the House Education Committee.
“With DeKalb, I have seen the school system go from being very, very good 30 years ago to now. Gwinnett won the national urban school of the year award, and DeKalb is being threatened with a loss of accreditation.”
Millar, a Republican, has similar frank positions on MARTA, which he has suggested should receive dedicated state funding and cannot be run with Fulton and DeKalb counties as the transit system’s primary source of funding.
He’s also been both an advocate and facilitator of incorporating areas like the city of Dunwoody, which broke away from DeKalb County in 2010.
As skilled a politician as Millar has proven to be, the often insider-baseball that surrounds state politics is not what drives him. The details are important, of course, but the goal of being involved in education and the state’s transit system are parts of a broader goal, he said.
“What’s going to drive economic development in this state is the perception of education and our transportation system,” he said. “If we can get out of this gridlock environment, then we can attract more businesses.”
Millar, outside of politics, is the senior vice president and account services manager for Wells Fargo Insurance Services.
Millar easily won state Senate District 40 seat Tuesday, which was left open by the departure of long-time legislator Dan Weber. Millar defeated Democratic challenger Eric Christ by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent.
He will join a Senate that, like the House, includes a number of new faces and will be responsible for redrawing state and federal district lines driven by 2010 Census numbers.
Among the new faces in the House will be Democrat Elena Parent. She defeated incumbent Jill Chambers, a Republican, in a close race for the District 81 seat. Parent won with 53 percent of the votes to Chambers’ 47.
Elsewhere across DeKalb County, Republican incumbent Mike Jacobs defeated Sandy Murray, a Democrat, with 65 percent of the vote. He retains his District 80 House seat.
Robert James, a Democrat, won his bid in a special election for the DeKalb County District Attorney. He defeated Constance Pinson Heard by a 64 percent to 35 percent margin.
A DeKalb County Superior Court judge race apparently didn’t produce a winner and will require a runoff among the top vote getters, according to unofficial election results. Four candidates failed to gain a majority. Courtney Johnson led the pack with 37 percent, Michael Rothenberg gained more than 25 percent, Denise Warner gained nearly 19 percent of the vote and Yvonne Hawks netted more than 18 percent.
A close race for the DeKalb County Board of Education District 1 also ended inconclusively. Challenger Nancy Jester garnered nearly 46 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results. Incumbent Jim Redovian netted more than 44 percent and Merope Gillis pulled more than 9 percent of voters.
Meanwhile, a homestead exemption extension was approved in both DeKalb County and Dunwoody. In Dunwoody, 80 percent of voters approved extending the exemption. In DeKalb, 77 percent approved the exemption.
Millar, a rising star in the legislature, said that politics is more than just the legislation. Millar said he enjoys being able to personally lend a hand with his position of power.
He says he’s helped hundreds of people deal with the often confusing bureaucracy inherent in any government, which can have a major impact on people’s lives. For example, a young girl with Down Syndrome was in danger of losing disability benefits because of a “paperwork foul-up” on the part of her mother, he said.
The problem was solved with Millar’s help, and he was mailed a picture of the girl peeling potatoes at a volunteer event at Dunwoody United Methodist Church, which he attends. The enclosed thank-you note, written by the child said “I’m trying to be the best me I can be.”